Social workers play a critical role in helping children, adults, and communities cope with the problems of daily life. This is a growing profession, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting employment for social workers to grow much faster than other professions through 2026. Read on to find out more about graduate degrees in this field, as well as programs in Southern California that will allow you to enter the profession.
Graduate Degrees in Social Work
Master of Social Work
The Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) is the first graduate degree that most students will seek within this field. The M.S.W. can typically be completed in two years of full-time study, and many departments will have part-time tracks available. Students will often begin their program of study with generalized social work courses, and then choose a specialized track to pursue during their second year of study. In addition to coursework, an important component of earning the M.S.W. degree is the participation in field education, where a minimum of 1,000 hours of hands-on experience is gained at partner agencies. To apply for M.S.W. programs, students must hold a bachelor's degree, and any undergraduate liberal arts major will be considered. Expect to submit transcripts, recommendations, a resume and a statement of purpose. Students holding an undergraduate Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W.) may be eligible for advanced standing.
Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work
The Doctor of Philosophy, or Ph.D., is typically pursued by those who wish to focus on research and teaching within this field. Students will develop a course of study with faculty advisors, including core courses which hone advanced social work competencies. In addition, students will be expected to pass qualifying examinations, gain teaching expertise, and produce a dissertation based upon independent research. To gain admission to a Ph.D. program, students typically must have completed an M.S.W. or related degree, have evidence of high academic performance within the master's program, and provide evidence of research or publications. Potential students should also submit GRE results, transcripts, and recommendations.
Doctor of Social Work
This doctoral degree is designed for experienced social work professionals who wish to develop management expertise in order to lead agencies. Courses will focus on the development of social work leadership skills. Applicants typically hold an M.S.W., however closely related degrees such as a Master of Public Health or Master of Marriage and Family Therapy may be considered. Students should have five or more years of professional experience, and submit a resume, statement of purpose, recommendations, and transcripts.
Graduate Social Work Programs in Southern California
University of Southern California
USC offers students the opportunity to pursue the M.S.W., Doctor of Social Work (D.S.W.), or Ph.D. The M.S.W. program is offered on-campus and online. Students focus on adult mental health, children, military social work, or social change. Students can participate in an on-campus practice lab to gain skills in motivational interviewing and cognitive-behavioral therapies in addition to the practical experience gained in two internships. Courses may include science of social work and culturally competent social work practice.
The Ph.D. program is designed to ensure that students have mastered research methods and teaching skills and are designed to make an impact upon pressing social issues. Courses may include multiple regression in social work research and theories of human behavior. Faculty tutorials are an essential component of the program of study, and students are expected to prepare individual research and present through conferences.
The D.S.W. is an online program designed to guide experienced professional social workers who aim to achieve leadership positions within agencies. Courses may include leading complex systems and financial management. Two six-day in-person residencies enable students to network and participate in live discussions. In addition, a capstone project allows students to navigate solutions to real-world problems.
Loma Linda University
At Loma Linda University, students can pursue the M.S.W. or a Ph.D. in Social Policy and Social Research. Loma Linda is a Christian university and focuses on a bio-psycho-social-spiritual model of care. The M.S.W. program focuses on developing competent practitioners of clinical social work. Courses may include integrated behavioral health, behavioral/cognitive therapies, trauma-focused play therapy, and psychodynamic therapies. M.S.W. students are expected to complete a wholeness portfolio as they engage in their internship, which discusses their career plans and how to incorporate the values of Loma Linda University into their professional practice. Dual degrees in gerontology and criminal justice are available.
The Ph.D. program has requirements in coursework, examinations, research, and dissertation. Coursework may include diversity theory and organizational theory. Comprehensive examinations are required in social theory, statistical analysis, and statistical methods. A published paper and dissertation are also program completion requirements.
San Diego State University
At San Diego State University, students can pursue the M.S.W. degree. Students are able to pursue concentrations in direct practice or administration/community development, as well as choose a focus area on mental health, children, or health/aging. Courses may include computer applications in social work practice and civic engagement. Joint programs in public health and law are also available.
California State University - Dominguez Hills
Students can earn an M.S.W. at California State - Dominguez Hills. This program focuses its curriculum on critical race theory and intersectionality. Students may choose concentrations in children, youth and families; community mental health; or community capacity building. Courses may include critical race studies in social work practice and advanced practice in leadership. Stipends are available for those focusing on child welfare.
California Baptist University
At California Baptist University, in Riverside, students can pursue the M.S.W. Students can focus upon clinical social work or community practice. Courses may include case management, marginalized populations, and elder abuse. A capstone research project allows students to work with a community agency to address gaps in service or develop new programming. In keeping with the Christian values of the school, students are asked to keep a faith journal and discuss with a faculty mentor throughout their program.
Students who wish to prepare for a career in social work will find multiple opportunities in Southern California. Whether at the master's or doctoral level, these programs will help students achieve their educational goals.